Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Great expectorations

Before I get too deep into today's topic, I want to make one thing clear -- I love Houston, I really do. It's got a great job market, low cost of living, and mild winters. Sure, the traffic's bad, the air is polluted and the humidity could drown a lobster, but overall, it's a great city.

But when you get 5 million people together in one place, in one of the greatest ethnic melting pots in the world (Houston no longer has a "majority" ethnicity, just a whole lotta minorities that add up to 100% of the people), you're going to see some strange stuff. Which brings me to my topic today: spitting.

I was a baseball player, so I understand spitting. Didn't do it much, but I understood it. Build up some saliva, launch it forcibly into the air, and watch it fall on the field while giving the other team the evil eye. If done correctly, it can be quite intimidating. Done incorrectly, you'll get a wet spot on your uniform, but it dries quickly so it's not a big deal.

In Houston, though, I've seen lots of people spit. And they're not on baseball fields. No, these people are in their car. The process usually goes like this:

1) Car is sitting at red stoplight, driver opens door
2) Driver leans head out, spits onto the ground
3) Sometimes, but not always, the driver will look at the spit for a while
4) Driver closes the door and takes off normally when the light turns green

I've seen this happen at least 50 times in the past couple of years. I don't ever remember seeing it a single time while growing up in the Midwest, so I must ask... is car spitting a Houston thing? Is there something about this place that makes people generate extra saliva or phlegm?

And it's not just redneck Cowboys in pickup trucks either, oh no. In fact, a good portion of the expectorators have been Muslim women in full head scarves. I'm not kidding. These are women who would never dream of showing a little bit of ankle in public, but they'll lean out of an open car door and hawk a loogie at a major intersection. I have a theory that they're in the month of Ramadan and are taking their fast so seriously that they won't even swallow their own saliva, but I'm not sure. It's not the kind of thing I really feel comfortable asking them.

No point today, no moral to the story -- just an anecdote from big city life deep in the heart of Texas. I'm getting old enough now to begin recognizing my own ignorance, so I know there are many things in this world I'll never understand. Things like fractals, Hebrew verb tenses and why the French love Jerry Lewis. I guess it's time to add "mass spitting at stoplights" to the list.


AvE said...

Spitting from the car is common among rednecks and in areas where rednecks are common. HTH.

Sotosoroto said...

Perhaps it's all the Houston smog that makes more saliva. Sorta like how airborne dust can generate rain...

Redlefty said...

Perhaps so, gentlemen. I'm still curious if this happens most places, and I just missed it, or if it's mostly a Houston phenomenon.

Yesterday I was stuck in traffic behind another spitter, but he did it a couple of times out the window. I'm guessing he might have tried the open-door method if we had been at a stoplight.

Orangehouse said...

Great post! But I think you have it wrong. I grew up in Houston, so I know what I'm talking about. There are not really any minorities in Houston, there are only two types of people: those that have air conditioning in their car, and those that do not.

Houston is a terrible place to live without A/C. The combination of hot days, high humidity, and frequent traffic jams come together to make the perfect storm of car discomfort.

My theory is that the people you observe are not really spitters. They are actually opening their car doors to let the knee-deep pools of sweat drain out of their cars.